So. In the middle of Tonner Edward pointing out to me what, exactly, vampires are, Purple Arwen came running in (and she never goes anywhere near Tonner Edward, so I knew it was serious):
"THEY TOOK ALL THE PIE!"
"What? You're just now figuring this out?"
"No, they came back and took all the pie! I checked when they first left and it was still there!" Arwen wrung her hands. "Also, they took your brandy."
Ah, yes, the mini bottle of brandy I found in my closet: the Tiny Booze. "Well, at least they didn't take the Woodchucks. Although if they could lift one, I guess they would've earned it."
And then I went back to my desk and discovered I'd been hit:
"Death To Sparklepires," I said wearily. And in my new glitter eyeshadow, too.
"Well, you ought to be able to figure out who did it--they left fingerprints."
"Arwen, we KNOW who--ARGHHHH."
By the time all of The Littlest Edward's fences had been knocked down, we were into a full-on reign of terror--or so I thought, until Faramir Two marched Lyra up and made her confess that she had done it. (As Anna's protegée, she figured it was her turn to raise some hell, I guess. Of course, Faramir seemed to think it was pretty funny himself, but I'd stopped counting on disapproval from any of the other Shelfians.) So while Lyra was helping Little Edward put the fences back up (he was mostly sulking), I helped Faramir pick up the ponies and bring them back (Faramir shooed them back homewards with his cloak), and since we were off by ourselves down the hall, it seemed like a good time for a private talk.
"How's the Serafina thing going?"
"Well, Lyra's made it easier on us--she's lots of fun, and playing with her keeps us from talking about... you know. It's almost like we're her parents--a bit like playing house, actually." And then he looked over at the stable and laughed: "Look, we can even have white picket fences." He sighed. "I still don't feel any... enthusiasm, though."
"You know--I get that witches are kinda strange, but she can't just walk in here and threaten people. I mean, that's just not okay. You let me know if she gets too aggressive, because I'm not going to let her just--"
"No, no, don't worry about it," he said anxiously. "We'll work something out. I was hoping that if we became friends, she'd let this whole thing go. And I really do like her. I mean... aside from the whole wanting-to-kill-me thing."
I did not feel reassured.
(I asked Lyra to check the alethiometer for me and find out where the girls were hiding; it pointed to the tree--"shelter," thanks a lot--but mostly just spun around without stopping. "What does that mean?" "It means it doesn't want to tell you either," she said, grinning. I didn't even bother to ask Galadriel to check the Mirror; she was already trying to hide a smile over Lyra's shoulder. But there was an anxiety further back in her eyes; I wondered if she was still trying to puzzle out what the Mirror had shown us last time.)
So I had a lot on my mind, is what I'm saying, when I headed for the attic to see if the girls had run there after DEFILING MY MONITOR and MY EYESHADOW--maybe I could catch them before they ran downstairs again--but instead, I ran into someone else.
"I could hunt mice if I wanted to," said The Littlest Edward, combing Butterscotch's tail. "Cotton is just so much more civilized. And actually vegetarian."
"So... you have a Carlisle too, right?" I asked Tonner Edward later. "Are you guys doing the 'vegetarian'"--I did the air quotes with my fingers and everything--"thing too?"
"Theoretically," he said. We were sitting on the bed in my sister's old room while The Littlest Edward filled the ponies' trough for the evening. "I was rather pleased to realize that I could hunt real animals, which are even better than stuffed animals, and still uphold the letter of the law."
"So, like... why is one okay but the other's not? I mean, real animals are--you know. REAL. You'd think that would be worse."
"We called it the Narnia Rule. That is, nothing that talks. Real animals don't. Your little polar friend does, so he's off the menu. So are most other dolls."
"What if... what if, for whatever reason, a doll was mute?"
"Trust me, I've tried to find loopholes," he said, in a way that weirded me out a bit. "But you know when it's wrong. A doll that can hear and understand but doesn't actually talk--there's a difference between mute and dumb, that was the distinction Carlisle used to make. A simple mannequin's all right; a doll that just doesn't have a lot to say isn't, and you know it. I made a promise. I do intend to keep it. Of course, mannequins aren't very satisfying anyway." He pointed at my sister's silent Madame Alexanders (she has the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty ). "What would be the point?"
"I don't get what you're saying..."
"It's not just the blood--or the stuffing, or the 'essence,' or whatever the toy equivalent is. That's the medium, I suppose. But I don't particularly get cravings for cotton batting, unlike a certain poor excuse for a vampire you might know. That's not what it's about."
"Well, what is it about, then?"
He seemed torn--like he wanted to tell me, he wanted me to understand (and to put The Littlest Edward down some more), but... I got the feeling what he wanted to tell me was really unpleasant. Ugly, even. Of course, once he saw that I suspected as much, there was no point in holding back, was there? "I want their life," he said. "I want their death. I want to feel it happen. That's the good part, killing things, feeling them die, feeling their life pass into me. It's not strictly necessary, I suppose. I can feed on something that doesn't struggle--the way he feeds--and survive on it. But the struggle--the heart beats faster, the blood pumps harder--you know the expression about smelling fear? You can taste it, too. Fear and suffering."
"Suffering tastes good?"
"I'm a vampire. Are you really surprised?"
"Holy shit. Holy fucking shit." He winced pretty hard. I'm not sure he'd even heard those words aloud before. "Well, congratulations on dialing the creepy up a notch. I wasn’t sure you could find a way to do it."
"I am A VAMPIRE." But he folded his arms around himself as if he felt cold. Or exposed, maybe.
"I guess... more like I'm not used to it."
"Not after living with Fluffy over there, you mean." He snorted. "Imagine if you could never eat real food again, never have the pleasure of eating it--instead, you had to get all your nutrition from--"
"Tofu?" (What? I read the books! I know how this is supposed to go!)
"Not even that. You'd at least get the pleasure of chewing with tofu. More like vitamin pills. Or an IV. And he's perfectly happy with that--half-existence. Look at him."
(The Littlest Edward was taking a well-deserved break from pitching Easter grass just then.)
"Couldn't be happier. He's--tame now--he's just--a teddy bear. He's a plaything for little girls to coo over, just like those ponies."
"But is he--was he--like you? Or is he a different kind of vampire?"
Edward's face darkened. He didn't speak for a long time. Finally, he said, "No. He's the same."
And that was what he didn't want to admit, that it could be overcome, and there was Little Edward right there in his pile of Easter grass--someone he considered weak and inferior--having conquered it. I played it all back through my mind--suddenly Little Edward's protestations of loathsome monsterosity took on a different hue. He was cute and sweet and even pitiful at times, but when he had bitten Iorek, it was because he had wanted to taste suffering. (Fluffy, delicious suffering. Okay, I laughed a little, even then.) His warnings had sounded comical to us because we hadn't known how he was made, what he was really thinking, what he was capable of wanting. And yet, there he was, peaceful amid his ten little pastel ponies and their bright nylon manes, no longer even tempted by them. He had a home of his own, such as it was; he was beginning to feel domestic and even a bit lonely.
And that was when I decided that he was ready for a Littlest Bella.
I thought back to the picture. Surely it would be safe to bring her in, to have her around Tonner Edward--her hair wasn't very long or dark, and it had a bit of a wave to it, but it wasn't even real hair, it was molded plastic action figure hair, not long, luscious, rooted saran fiber (mmsaraaaaaan). Plus, you've seen how huge Tonner Edward is next to The Littlest Edward--surely he would leave The Littlest Bella alone. Surely she wouldn't interest him at all. Right? I might even promise him a Bella of his own--a very, very long someday from now--if he could behave and prove himself the way TLE had.
And thinking about Bellas, I remembered something I'd only thought of long after our "serial killer" conversation, when I was brushing my teeth later that night in front of the mirror.
"What about my hair?"
He looked up, distracted--apparently he had descended into some deep reverie of his own. "What about it?"
My hair, which is brown and wavy, comes down a little past my shoulders--reasonably close to his kink criteria. "You know... does it... bother you at all, or... anything."
He smiled. "Decent curl, but not long enough and far too dry, and your split ends are dire. Also, your roots are starting to show."
God, I'm glad the girls left the cider behind.
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